Otunba Bimbola Ashiru is one fascinating personality whose aura evokes happiness on four sides. As a banker, politician, husband and motivational speaker, he is exemplary and exceptional. The business pundit who will clock 55 in a couple of days, talks to Omolabake Fasogbon about life in the public and private sectors, lifestyle and marriage
Precisely on December 26, Asha, as he is fondly called will be 55, an event that also coincided with his 27th wedding anniversary. On this account of life and marriage, are endearing and inevitable heartbreaking tales that characterised his life. Welcoming this reporter to his moderately furnished edifice in Magodo, one of the affluent towns in Lagos, this humble and interesting personality was well at home to share all sides of his details in the last 55 years with great enthusiasm. But the vim and vigour with which he flows could have just been shocking to anyone who is aware of his fate in the last governorship primary elections in Ogun State.
For the successful father of two who perfectly fits for a role model, his life is a confirmation of the word of the holy book, which says ‘Seeth thou a man diligent in his work, he shall stand before kings and not before mean men.’ Although, Ashiru has a wealthy upbringing, he was able to complement this with his zeal for success, which paved way for him to rise even above his root.
No doubt, his sterling performance within and outside the country, and most recently, in Stanbic IBTC where he facilitated huge and profitable deals could have fetched him his public service job in Ogun State other than his affiliation with the state governor. Even as a Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in Ogun State, the Adetola Odutola alumni nailed it exceedingly as usual and with that, come another capital point in his trajectory.
Coming from a banking environment to take over the number one job in a ministry didn’t come so easy for the private sector groomed, albeit, not because of the task in waiting. According to him, he almost gave up as a result of the bureaucratic structure in the system, the initial lackadaisical attitude of workers as well as the issue of getting workers to trust him on his true mission.
Apparently zealous to share this experience, he sat more comfortably on the two- seater sofa as he relayed the episode: “We had a lot of issues at the beginning, I must confess. You know, coming from a more disciplined background, I mean the private sector, one finds it is easier to sack someone who misbehaves but it will take donkey years to fire in the civil service. Unlike in the private industry where decisions are taken within time, this is lagging in the ministry and it really obstructs development to a great extent.
“All thanks to the intervention of people like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Fashola, things started working out well in the ministry during their time, as people started putting private sector experience to fore and governance became improved with digitalisation. The issue of trust is another drawback that hindered a lot of performance. You see, civil servants see political appointee as one coming in to the system to make money as they are only temporal, and so they commit their loyalty only to the government in power.
Though life has treated him well especially with riches, honour and position, he is not carried away by luxury and sweet talks. He merely considered himself as only being fortunate and not a special creature from another planet .This is proven in friends testimonies of his person.
A secondary school friend, Mr. Tunji Folami, once said of him, “Bimbo I have known when we were growing up in Secondary school at Adeola Odutola College in Ijebu Ode, is an easy going person and he stills maintains his disposition. In a nutshell, he is very intelligent and trust worthy. He maintains cordial relationship and he never despises his friends. It is the same trait he has carried over while we were in secondary school till present”.
Hearing this testimony, the Ijebu chief, now blushing said, “Well, I remain myself, I see no reason why I should grow wings over life’s vanity. As much as I know that in this clime, most people put up negative attitude when they attain a greater height, but I tell you that it is not worth it, no condition is permanent. I see no reason why I won’t pick or return anybody’s call irrespective of the person’s status. Up to my domestic workers, I remain loyal and submissive to them because they are my immediate family members.”
Not just that the Strategic Management graduate is close to the Awujale and paramount ruler of Ijebu land, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetola, he equally picks some traits from the octogenarian which he says have equally shaped his attitude to life.
“Awujale is a father to me and so he is to all. He became king at age 26 and that speaks a lot of him. I’ve learnt a lot from his bravery, tolerance, kindness and of course openness. He likes to share experience for others to learn from and he is very accommodating, the more reason why Ijebu land is peaceful till date. Away from these characteristics, I love his sense of dressing. Even at 86, he is simply cosmopolitan. “
In actual sense, Bimbo finding himself in the bank could have been predestined, because all the while as a child, he had always wanted to have the stethoscope around his neck, but he said,” I’ve always wanted to be a medical doctor but this did not work out because of my weakness in some science courses, but I found out I was doing better in the art and commercial subjects. Now, finding myself in the financial sector, I think I was born to be there going by my speed and heights of achievements. As a motivational speaker, I find it interesting and possible to convert people without hassle.
“Getting to the bank, I didn’t find it hard to convince prospect to buy whatever am selling to them so I was able to meet my target timely. I remember a scenario in 1998, a bank I was working with introduced a programme called Guarantee Money Market Fund and I was given a target of N1 billon in January, by December, I had already covered almost N2.5 billion. To the glory of God, I happen to be one of the pioneers of private banking in Nigeria when it was newly initiated. It was in the course of this private banking that I got to meet a lot of people in my life.”
He also talked about how he managed to resign from the bank as a director, to an unknown space, ‘a hard take it was’, he confessed. “Like I said earlier, I didn’t see myself taking up a job in the public sector, but when the governor called me to join his team, it then dawned on me that a new challenge is beckoning. Whether to join his team or not, the decision lies on my royal father, Oba Adetona and my mentor, Atedo Peterside, the former Chairman of Stanbic IBTC. They eventually gave their consent. But my chairman didn’t just let me go like that, he wanted the governor to know he was taking one of the best hands in the bank and so, he decided that the bank was going to pay my salary for four years which the bank did. He did that also to prove the bank’s commitment to the development of the state”.
Reminiscing his days in the bank, he gushed,” I miss those days I must confess. I enjoy the fact that I help people to help their business grow, but I didn’t go too far from my interest because commerce and industry is more or less like marketing too. Some of the industries that came to the state were my clients in the bank, it was not too hard for me to carry them along because of the trust they have in me.”
For the youngest Otunba in Ijebu land, he would rather not venture into anything if his wife, who is also his chief adviser, was not aware of such. My wife happens to be my backbone spiritually and I will not do a thing behind her. All the while, I made up my mind to resign and joined the governorship race, she and my daughter were initially scared because of the dirty power play in politics, she consulted God on it and gave me the go ahead, with the conviction that God’s will alone will be done.”
Excitedly, he speaks further on her lawyer partner: “I met her on her cousin’s birthday 28 years ago. From where I was seated, I sighted this beautiful, charming young lady in a purple dress and I was like, who is this damsel? I admired her dance steps, beauty, comportment and her dress, so I summoned courage to approach her, the rest as they say, is history today. The memory of that purple gown still lingers”
And so, how does the loverboy get to appreciate his second half for keeping late vigils to ensure the homestead is alive and hearty? “Oh! I made sure she doesn’t lack”. Looking confused now, the reporter questioned him, ‘but a woman needs much more than material items and money’, he replied, “yes, I know, I satisfy her on all ends but I can’t start saying how and what I do to her in the public, it’s between us”.
Away from his career, the ex-commissioner is a sports addict except for football which he says he’s not a fan of the game. “I really don’t like football, I create time to watch it at times, but I don’t get to play it. I developed aversion for the game right from secondary school when I see my colleagues play and get injured in the process. Other than that, I do other sports like jogging, ride bicycle and walk around. I also party to keep myself alive.
His dance step does not resist any musical genre be it juju, oldies, Apala or the trendy shakushaku beat, whichever one that caught his step is decided by his mood. However, he says,” As much as I dance at public occasion, I will never stoop so low to spray money in the public. I see it as madness and this is not because I use to be a banker. I would rather package my cash gift to a musician or celebrant in a more descent manner.”
For the period he spent in the ministry, the Marketing, Purchasing and Supply graduate has this has to offer as a giveaway to those in position of authority, based on his experience: “In my little time in politics, I have come to realise that a lot of people are not real, they only try to be your friends because of what they want to benefit from you. The moment you leave that position, you are off their memory, they start looking for the next bait. Let me cite a good example here, a good number of people kept in touch with me during my first tenure, but immediately the tenure expired; I can’t even sight their shadows. But immediately it was announced that my name has been submitted to the House of Assembly for second term, oh my God! You needed to see how calls were rushing in from those that have not been in touch for long.
“I didn’t even know my name has been submitted because I was away in England, it was their calls that gave me the hint. But for me, I try as much as possible to avoid sycophants who will want to tell me what I want to hear. Mind you, they also told your predecessor same story. This is one of problems with our leaders, not being surrounded by the right people and that is why I will advise them not to be carried away by what they hear, but to remain focused and be fair to all”.
On his next line of action, he revealed: “My times are in God hands. I will announce my next step when the time is ripe”.